In storytelling, politics is often pitted against entertainment with frequent takes like, “Sometimes I just want to be entertained. There doesn’t always have to be a point to entertainment, some political lesson.” This idea of opposition doesn’t really make sense to me. Politics and entertainment can enhance each other and usually do.
Opinions run the gamut from “I don’t like this, it’s too political” to “Everything is political.” The first statement is virtually always code for “I don’t like this, it doesn’t agree with my politics.” Everyone, except for the people that make this statement, knows its true subtext. As for the second statement “everything is political”, it is true. An action thriller that simply moves from one cool action sequence to the next is political. It communicates that violence can be enjoyed uncritically. A romantic comedy, in depicting what does and doesn’t work in relationships, is advocating for certain types of love.
To dig deeper into the second statement while it is true that everything is political, this can sound rather nitpicky. It would be easy to read as an “I’m so smart” statement that doesn’t really say much of anything. Perhaps it even elicited eye-rolls. However, more fully examined, the statement “everything is political” significantly alters what is considered a political story. For example, a homosexual romance would be regarded by many as more political than a heterosexual one. Certainly, a romance involving transgender characters would be considered political by many. A story about mass incarceration would be regarded as more political than a story that uncritically treats police officers as heroes. Even many people that agree with the statement everything is political would align with these sentiments. However, they’re missing a key point.
The status quo is political. It just hides in plain sight. The present is not ‘just what is’, it is constantly being made. Heterosexual romance stories, often emphasizing the importance of marriage, are regarded as politically neutral because they inhabit the norm. This misses the reality that these stories are actively enforcing the norm with their creation. If enough LGTBQ+ romance stories are told, they too will simply become the norm. Already I would argue that gay romances are not seen as political as they were ten years ago because of…